Freelancers have a bad press when it comes to procrastination. But I wonder if taking minutes or hours out of your working day to daydream is actually very good for you.
The neuropsychologists seem to think that daydreaming is an essential part of mental processing, reasoning and learning. In other words, how we are effective at work.
1. Giving your mind a break
One of the interesting findings of the research we’ve seen is that daydreaming is our normal state of mind, and that those periods when we do focus are the punctuations. That’s interesting. So what the research seems to suggest is that when your mind wanders, it’s becoming more agile and fit. Apparently, our mind wanders around 47% of the time we are awake.
So, far from being brain lazy, it seems that daydreaming is a form of going to the gym for your mind. Nice one.
2. Preparing yourself
The ability to be able to imagine ‘what if’ is a really important part of preparing yourself for events by seeing yourself in a successful situation. You can think through scenarios and imagine how you would handle them.
It doesn’t guarantee a successful outcome of course, but it does mean we are better prepared, and ready to deal with the outcome.
3. Daydreaming keeps you motivated
We talk a lot about the power of passion – that it’s possible to make a career working for yourself doing things that you love. It’s the most motivating reason to stop allowing others to control your life and career. Daydreaming plays a massive role in helping you envisioning and imagine how your life would be if you truly did what you love.
It’s also true that when you can see yourself living that life, you motivate others to help and support you.
If you can dream it, you can do it – Walt Disney
4. It gives you a power pack
The thing about daydreaming is that it enables you to take greater risks, work harder at it and get you out of your comfort zone. Without dreams we’d never know what was individually possible.
5. Moments of clarity and insight
If you suffer from a fuzzy brain (that’s what I call it), it’s probably because you are stressed out, your brain is working overtime and your mind hasn’t had time to relax and daydream. And yet sometimes, it suddenly seems to click and you get a moment of insight. That’s the result of a daydream or two.
What you may think is just your mind drifting is actually your mind actively forming connections between information, synthesizing the mess that is going on in your brain, and preparing the ground.
In a great The New Yorker article reference is made to a study by Benjamin Baird and Jonathan Schooler in which they discover that spending time daydreaming after first being given a task leads to more insightful responses to the task than focus and concentration do.
6. Dealing with problems
Because daydreaming has traditionally been seen as something you do when you want to escape everyday life, it has been rather dismissed and we are conditioned to resist daydreaming.
But daydreaming is one of the most powerful coping mechanisms. It provides the brain with ‘time out’, which is important if we want to face the world with a fresh mind.
7. Less procrastination!
Back to that procrastination problem. We know that concentration is at it’s best when we have periods of daydreaming, because our minds have a rest. The same applies to productivity, which is better when we do things in short bursts, rather than long periods.
The Pomodoro Technique for time management breaks down productive work into twenty-five minutes segments with a short five-minute break between each segment of work. After four such segments of work and breaks you take a longer break of fifteen minutes. It has been shown to increase productivity levels by linking the mind’s limited power of concentration with moments of daydreaming, giving it the rest needed between periods of increased mental work.
Letting the mind drift off to daydream is the easy part. But it’s important to maintain enough awareness that you can capture all that valuable insight in the process.
We spend nearly half our waking lives daydreaming — but it’s also a talent we need to develop.